No fans for NZ's game of three halves
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Crusaders will play a rescheduled pre-season game this weekend, with the Chiefs announcing that they will host both the Crusaders and Blues in a game of three halves on Saturday, February 20 at Hautapu Sports in Cambridge.
The match, which is closed to the public, will kick off at 12.00 (local time).
The Blues have been isolated at home with individual training while Auckland was in Level 3 lockdown which forced the cancellation of their original pre-season game against the Crusaders. Both the Crusaders and Chiefs offered to host the Blues, with a change of alert levels leading to agreed plans for a game of three halves based in the Waikato.
The Crusaders will now stick with their plan to fly north, however, will take the field in Cambridge instead of the previously scheduled Eden Park. The first game of three halves in 2021 was played in Upper Hutt last Saturday with the Chiefs, Blues and the Hurricanes taking part.
Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson is looking forward to the final pre-season fixture of 2021.
“It’s disappointing for the Blues and the wider Auckland community to miss out on their planned Footy Fest at Eden Park this weekend, and I know a few Auckland-based Crusaders fans will have been looking forward to that contest as well,” Robertson said.
“All clubs realise the importance of preparation leading in to the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa next week, so we are happy to head to the Waikato as it gives three teams the opportunity to have a pre-season hit out before the start of the competition.”
The pre-season match will serve as a welcome opportunity for all teams to test scenarios and combinations in a live fixture before the Super Rugby Aotearoa Season kicks off next Friday, February 26.
There will be no tickets sold to the event as the match will be played under Level 2 Operating Protocols due to the close proximity to Auckland and the need to take maximum precautions ahead of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Chiefs CEO Michael Collins said that they have erred on the side of caution to play under Alert Level 2 restrictions, especially given the late decision to proceed with the match.
“Our primary focus is to provide opportunities that will best prepare the Chiefs squad for Super Rugby Aotearoa and also combat against the many uncertainties that exist for us all. Testing ourselves against the Blues and Crusaders provides that for us.
“We are compelled to err on the side of caution and operate the match with Alert Level 2 restrictions. Auckland is still in Level 2, it’s a short drive down State Highway 1 to get here and we know this fixture would have attracted thousands of passionate fans if we sold tickets to the public. With the stadium unavailable and less than three days to turn this event around, we’ve decided to play it safe and prioritise fans attending matches when the 2021 Super Rugby Season begins.”
Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan is looking forward to the newly announced fixture.
“The situation the Blues were put in was bigger than rugby. We were happy to change our plans to help provide an opposition for both them and the Crusaders this Saturday. After the successful hit out in Upper Hutt, we will continue to make our necessary adjustments and encourage our players to stake a claim for a starting position against quality opposition leading into our first match on March 5th” said McMillan.
Blues Head Coach Leon McDonald is delighted his team will take the field on Saturday.
”Things were not looking good for us as we have been unable to train as a team, so this is a real lifeline and vital as we try to make up time before the start of the competition. We are humbled by the support we have received from the clubs, especially for the Chiefs’ offer to host us and for the Crusaders who have been so supportive through this entire pre-season upheaval.”
The Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs teams to play in the game of three halves will be named on Friday.